As part of the college’s One World Week and in anticipation of Halloween last year, here is an old post from Strode student Sammie Lock taking a look at how Halloween is celebrated around the world.
Ireland was believed to be the ‘birthplace’ of the Halloween tradition. It was started with the Celtics as they celebrated new years on November 1st, and they believed that on New Years Eve that was when the veil between our plane and the spirit realm is the thinnest. On this day the Celtic priests would ask spirits for guidance, as there religion highly revolved around spiritual things. But they were also weary of the evil spirits that could pass through on this day, so they would offer their god crops and sacrifice animals. They also used to dress up in costumes. Today in Ireland in the rural areas they still light bonfires like the days of the Celts, and children dress up and go trick-or-treating. After this most people go to a party over a friends house. Then games are played at these parties such as- Cards are laid out, and a child will choose a card, and whatever treat is under the card the child gets to keep. A traditional food is eaten on Halloween called “barnbrack.” This is fruitcake, which can be baked at home or store-bought. a treat is then baked inside the cake, this treat is meant to tell your future/fortune for the following year.
England: before people carved pumpkins, for Halloween children made “punkies” which were beetroots which the children carved whatever they wanted onto the front of it. These were then put outside homes to protect them from the spirits that roamed the earth on Halloween night.
People also used to throw objects at bonfires to ‘frighten’ away the lurking spirits. These items were also used as symbols, the people would throw pebbles into the bonfire, and if these pebbles were no longer visible in the morning then it was believed that whoever’s stone disappeared would survive the year. If young lovers threw a nut onto the bonfire and it exploded then it signified that they would have a quarrelsome marriage.
For a while people in England ceased to celebrate Halloween due to the spread of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. This is because the religion did not believe in saints, so they saw no reason to celebrate the Ever of All Saints’ Day. But in recent years the people of England have become accustomed to the American “Trick or Treating” traditions.
China… the Halloween festival is known as “Teng Cheih”. During this time people in China. In the Buddist temples “boats of law” are fashioned (they can get very big), then in the evening they are all burned, this is: in remembrance of the dead, and to help free the “pretas” so that they may ascend in to heaven. Pretas are people who died in accidents or drowned, so that there bodies are never buried, the Chinese believe that these spirits can be dangerous. So under guidance from Buddhist temples people gather to perform ceremonies for the ‘pretas’, which includes lighting of lanterns, and monks are invited to recite sacred verses, and give offerings of fruit. Food and water are also placed in front of photographs of deceased family members, whilst bonfires and lanterns are lit to light the path to guide spirits as they travel the earth.
Japan… there is the “Obon festival” which is also known as “Urabon” or “Matsuri” which are dedicated to the spirits of ancestors. During this time bright red lanterns are hung all around and special foods are prepared. Lit candles are then placed into lanterns and are set afloat onto rivers and onto seas. During this festival a fire is lit every night. This is to show ancestors where they can find their families. During this festival there are also family reunions so that families can visit the graves of their ancestors. This tradition has been celebrated in Japan for over 500 years. The obon festival also normally takes place between July and August.
Canada… celebrations happened with the arrival of Irish and Scottish immigrants in the 1800’s. Pumpkins/”Jack O’Lanterns are carved, and people celebrate these festivities by going to parties, and trick or treating, and by decorating there homes with pumpkins and corn stalks.
Belgium… traditions are simple, on Halloween night they light candles in memory of their dead relatives. Also during this time they believe that it is unlucky to come across a black cat, and it is also unlucky if a black cat enters their home or travels on a ship.
By Samantha Lock.